Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Latest Coverage

Throughout the animal euthanasia crisis at its Newmarket shelter, Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci kept insisting he had no authority to intervene with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Well, he should have had that power.
Or some independent, regulatory provincial body should have, as Tory MPP Frank Klees and the NDP’s Peter Kormos called for last week.
Animal lovers making charitable donations to care for lost, sick and stray animals should not have had to intervene, as they nonetheless effectively did, to get the OSPCA to reconsider its original controversial decision to euthanize up to 350 shelter animals.
This over a ringworm infestation many veterinarians insist was treatable — although the OSPCA says its experts recommended the measure.
Further, the explanations for how and why the outbreak got out of control in the first place have been sketchy and confusing at best.
Add to this the decades-old cat fight between the OSPCA and the Toronto Humane Society — the OSPCA raided and seized the THS last year, taking over its River St. shelter — and more concerns arise about the state of animal care in Ontario.
Without taking sides in that dispute, if the OSPCA can shut down the THS over allegations of improper treatment of animals, who does the OSPCA answer to when similar allegations are made against it?
Since it’s not Bartolucci, we pose the question to Premier Dalton McGuinty. Who’s in charge?
We share the view of opposition MPPs and Sun columnist and animal lover Peter Worthington, who has been covering these issues for decades — that the root problem may lie in the OSPCA’s twin powers of policing and animal care.
We don’t think a charity looking after animals should be policing other humane societies, or for that matter, apparently, itself.
The potential for conflicts of interest is too great.
Better to have an independent agency inspecting shelters, answerable to a cabinet minister with oversight powers, who can be questioned in the Legislature.
The government, however, appears to be going in the opposite direction — giving the OSPCA more powers and money while the minister is apparently sidelined during a crisis.
Despite that, Bertolucci says he remains confident in the OSPCA.
But if he doesn’t have any oversight powers, what is he basing his opinion on?
When an oversight process isn’t working, it means controversies like the one in Newmarket aren’t the problem, but rather a symptom of deeper problems.
This is important because not only is public money involved in running the system, the issue is how we care for animals.
As Worthington has observed, that’s one measure of how civilized we are as a society.
And based on the evidence to date, we don’t appear to be doing a very good job.

*Taken from the Toronto Sun

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